Prison companies' profit motive sheds new light on Arizona's immigration law

From the Restore Fairness blog-

For months after Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed off on the draconian immigration law, SB1070, protestors raged about the repercussions of a law that made it mandatory for police to stop and check the papers of anyone that they deemed “reasonably suspicious” of being undocumented. Human rights activists protested the inevitable implication of racial profiling that the law brought with it, while supporters of the law argued that it would be an effective solution to the immigration issue. When analyzing how the law came to be, the progressive media went to great lengths to highlight the direct links between those who drafted the law and “hate” groups the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FIRM) and white supremacist organizations. In all this, little was said about how the law came about in the first place.

A breaking investigation conducted by NPR and released today reveals that there is a more insidious motive behind the drafting of the Arizona law; one that leaves passionate rhetoric behind and focuses purely on profit. Based on the analysis of hundreds of thousands of campaign finance reports of people like Senator Russell Pearce, the legislator that was responsible for introducing SB1070 before the House of Representatives, as well as the corporate records of numerous prison companies, NPR has found deep financial ties between the drafting and introduction of the bill, and the private prison industry, that stands to benefit millions of dollars from increased immigrant detention.

The NPR investigation found that the seeds of the immigration bill were sown at a meeting of a group called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a semi-secret group that comprises of state legislators like Pearce, as well as the heads of big private corporations such as ExxonMobil and the National Rifle Association, and billion dollar companies like Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the largest private prison company in the United States. All of the 50 members present for the meeting in December, 2009 where Pearce first presented his idea for SB1070, voted to support it, and the exact “model bill” that he presented at the meeting became the law that Jan Brewer passed in April, 2010.

Once SB1070 was introduced in the House in January by Senator Pearce, it was backed by thirty six sponsors, most of whom had been present at the December meeting of ALEC. Almost immediately, thirty of the thirty-six sponsors received generous donations from all the big private prison companies, GEO Group, Corrections Corporation of America, and Management and Training Corporation. Further, it was clear that, if executed, this law would be hugely profitable for the prison companies. The records of CCA showed that prison executives were relying on immigration detention as their next big market.

Ties between the massive expansion of immigrant detention and the subsequent growth and profit for the largely privately run prison system are not new. What is even more disturbing is the concrete evidence that points to the lack of accountability that comes with this prison system that is increasingly dysfunctional, as well as a detention system that denies due process and fairness to hundreds of men, women and children.

Advocate groups such as the NDLON have called for a further investigation into the collaboration between private corporations and conservative politicians. Pablo Alvarado, the Executive Director of the National Day Laborer Organizing Network released a statement today saying-

We have done much to confront the hate within the recent immigration debate…but what this report brings to light is that behind the odious rhetoric there are corporations cashing in…These corporations and the politicians they fund are less concerned with borders than they are profit margins. We call on Russell Pearce to fully disclose his ties with those who may benefit financially from his initiatives and we ask that a deeper investigation be launched into the private interests gaining from the human rights crisis in Arizona.

Photo courtesy of npr.org

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As the specter of SB1070 haunts Nebraska, the case for dropping the I-word becomes stronger

From the Restore Fairness blog-

This summer, while the nation was in the throes of the debate around Arizona’s harsh immigration law SB1070, the small town of Fremont, Nebraska, decided to take immigration law into its own hands,  passing a law banning landlords and employers from renting and hiring people without adequate documentation.

It’s a precursor to the the anti-immigration dialogue running through the state of Nebraska, despite bring sparsely populated, enjoying relative economic stability, and not being positioned on the border. Dave Heineman, currently in the running for a second term as Governor of Nebraska, has been pushing for stricter immigration laws since he first ran for Governor four years ago. After an unexpected victory the first time around, the Republican Governor has made his opposition to immigration the central issue of his second campaign. Poised for re-election, he recently announced that a law closely modeled on Arizona’s SB1070 would be the first item on his agenda, were he to be elected as Governor again.

Following the support he received from Nebraskans over the Fremont law, and the sharp increase in his popularity ratings following his focus on immigration, Heineman is determined to push for a law that makes it easier for local law enforcement to arrest undocumented immigrants. He told the New York Times about his commitment to the issue-

I’m very adamant about this — the federal government has failed to solve the immigration issue…Next January I believe in every state in America there will be an Arizona-type law introduced.

Ironically, it was after two Republican officials – Chuck Hagel and Mike Johannes – worked to ensure that Federal authorities did not impede the hiring of undocumented people in Nebraska ten years ago that the state saw a rapid influx of foreign born residents, most of whom came to find work in the numerous meat-packing plants across the state. Although the state’s immigrant population grew by 40% since 2000, it was only after Heineman became Governor in 2005 that the negative discourse around immigrants began to gather momentum. In addition to the Fremont law, Heineman has been pushing to revoke in-state tuition rates for those college students who grew up in Nebraska but are undocumented. He been successful in his efforts to end prenatal support for pregnant women who do not possess adequate documentation, as well as put in a system of mandatory checks that ensures against benefits for those who might be undocumented.

While human rights groups, politicians, lawyers, and the Presidential administration itself, not to mention thousands of activists, athletes, artists, and individuals around the country worked hard to prove that laws such as SB1070 are unconstitutional, inhumane, and detrimental to the overall stability and success of the country, there are still people such as Governor Heineman who think otherwise.

It is important that we put an end to divisive politics and favor respect and human rights for all. The Applied Research Center is countering anti-immigrant discourse through Drop the I-Word, a national public education campaign focused on eradicating the racial slur “illegals” from media use and public discourse. The ‘I-word’ is a damaging term that divides and dehumanizes communities and is used to discriminate against immigrants and people of color. It is shorthand for “illegal alien,” “illegal immigrant” and other racially charged terms. The campaign redefines how we treat each other through a cross-generational, multiracial initiative aimed at raising the commitment to human rights, dignity and racial justice for all people.

It’s time to Drop the I-Word as a designation for our neighbors, children and families. Are you listening, Nebraska?

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Weekly Diaspora: Has Obama Failed the Immigration Reform Movement?

by Catherine Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

After signing a controversial $600 million border security bill last week, President Barack Obama is drawing fire from immigration reform advocates and anti-immigrant conservatives alike. While the former argue that the new security measures are a step backwards for comprehensive immigration reform, the latter say the bill does too little to secure our borders.

Arizona’s SB 1070 was a challenge to the federal government’s ability to resolve the immigration issue, and the Obama administration took a strong stood against it. The border security bill is almost certainly a demonstration of the administration’s might. But for what, and at whose expense?

The further right the president moves on immigration, the more absurd the opposition’s tactics become. Anti-immigration activists are now directing their ire towards the unborn children of immigrants. Meanwhile, immigration activists in Arizona are butting heads with an increasingly vocal gang of Tea Party members and have yet to see any positive change as a result of the federal lawsuit.

Obama gets an F

At The American Prospect, Adam Serwer argues that Obama’s immigration policies have failed the reform movement, and that they have also failed to bring anti-immigrant conservatives into the fold:

…While President Obama talks like an immigration moderate, in practice his actions are those of an unapologetic immigration hawk who has tightened border security without fulfilling his promise of immigration reform. […] On matters of border security, the administration is doing just about everything a Republican might do in his place, which means that Republicans have had to go to even greater extremes just to provide an excuse for not going along.

The extremist crusade against the 14th amendment, which grants automatic citizenship to anyone born in the U.S., is just one example of the lengths to which some conservatives will go to defy an administration whose immigration policies are already remarkably conservative.

Exposing the myth of the “anchor baby”

True to form, those calling for a repeal of the 14th amendment are now outdoing one another in an effort to appear even more extremely anti-immigrant. This week’s “terror baby” threat has eclipsed last week’s “anchor baby” threat, as some conservatives claim that pregnant immigrants are not only coming to the U.S. to give birth, but to raise their American babies as terrorists.

Robin Templeton of GritTv and Seth Hoy of AlterNet jumped on the issue this week. Both argue that, in far too many cases, the citizenship of an immigrant’s children has little bearing on whether or not she stays in the country, let alone become a U.S. citizen.

Templeton drives the point home by citing the case of Fatoumata Gassama, mother of six U.S. citizens, who fled Senegal to escape genital mutilation and is now faced with deportation. If deported, Templeton writes, “She will have no choice but to return with her children…including her 4 daughters, who would almost certainly be subjected to the same torture from which their mother sought refuge in the United States.”

The “anchor baby” threat is just the latest in a long list of sensational and unfounded claims put forth to demonize immigrants. According to the anti-immigrant contingent, we are at risk of losing jobs to immigrants, losing social services to immigrants, and even being criminally victimized by immigrants. Propagating such baseless misinformation is a common tactic, as most may remember from the health care reform debates.

Checking in on Arizona

Meanwhile in the nation’s anti-immigrant epicenter, Arizona, Tea Partiers are enjoying their heyday, and immigrants’ rights activists have yet to see any positive change resulting from the federal lawsuit against SB 1070.

As Naima Ramos-Chapman reports at Colorlines, gun-toting tea party activists kicked off the week with a border rally headlined by Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who advertised some of his own immigration solutions including “a pre-emptive strike to hunt down immigrants on the Mexican side of the border.”

Arpaio’s apparent disregard for Mexico’s sovereignty notwithstanding, his anti-immigrant zeal is nothing new. As Aura Bogado reports for Mother Jones, the sheriff tormented immigrants for years before SB 1070 became a hot topic, indiscriminately rounding up people of color and jailing them under such poor conditions that many have left prison severely injured, while others have died.

On top of that, federal prosecutions of immigrants in Arizona are at a record high this year. According to Elise Foley at the Washington Independent, newly released data shows that immigration cases made up 84.5 percent of prosecutions in Arizona.

That’s good news, no doubt, to Arpaio. Maricopa county ranks among the highest in its prosecutions of non-criminal immigrants. Such findings are harder for reform advocates to swallow, particularly in light of Obama’s repeated assurances that his immigration measures primarily target criminals. The divide between Obama’s promises and the reality of the situation on the ground is glaring, and anti-immigrant forces know it.

In Arizona, for instance, both the state legislature and Governor Jan Brewer remain defiant even in the face of the federal lawsuit against SB 1070 (which itself challenged the president’s resolve on immigration reform), and have since passed or introduced other anti-immigrant bills, in addition to several currently in the works—Nicole Guidotti-Hernandez at Ms. has a good breakdown of recently passed and pending anti-immigrant legislation in Arizona.

Curbing Arizona’s reach

But while numerous states have come out in support of SB 1070, many copy-cat bills have already failed in other states. Many more are likely to meet the same end.

Suman Raghunathan at YES! Magazine suggests that states are broadly rejecting Arizona—thereby demonstrating that the intense anti-immigrant sentiment currently dominating the media belongs to only a small faction of extremists. Raghunathan furthermore argues that it is actually the anti-immigrant movement that is failing.

Given the highly-criticized events at the federal level, such as the signing of the new border security bill and the expansion of the Secure Communities program, Raghunathan’s position is optimistic, to say the least. But maybe, at this point in the game, the immigration reform camp needs a little optimism.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse . This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Race to get passionate about in AZ: Randy Parraz for U.S. Senate!

I'm writing because I want to get everyone and everything I know to help Randy Parraz, Democratic Candidate for Senate in Arizona, in a tight, tight race for the democratic nomination (to go up against a very weak McCain in the fall).The race is wide open.

He gives me the most hope about national politics of anyone I know. He can win, but its a true case of where word of mouth, small donations, blogs, tweets, facebook, everything makes a difference (website is www.parrazforchange.com).

Here are the basics: he was a community organizer for 15 years, in Texas, in AZ. He comes from working class Sacramento family, went to Berkeley, BOALT, and Harvard Kennedy School and then straight to work in Texas with the Industrial Areas Foundation, studying with Ernie Cortez and Marshall Ganz. And he's been organizing ever since.

He was fighting SB1070 when it was coming up through the legislative process. Last night in a primary debate the big money candidate (who doesn't have more support but has already loaned himself half a million bucks) was hemming and hawing about civil unions, but wouldn't be clear about marriage equality. Randy called him out on it. He just doesn't have a problem being super clear about simple things, like SB1070 and gay marriage. But its not just fluff--he organizes around
the things he believes in.

He understands organizing, and understands power, and is direct, compassionate, and wants to wreak a little havoc in the halls of DC.

What else?--its so hard to prove that a politician is for real when so many aren't. He was targeted for arrest and handcuffed by Joe Arpaio two years before Arpaio became a household name. A Justice of the Peace and the County conclued that Randy's arrest was illegal and ordered the county to pay for the illegal arrest. Volunteers come from all backgrounds--one man recently committed because a while ago, before he was running for office, Randy saw a cop harrassing a crew of workers and took out his video camera until the cop tore up the tickets he was writing and walked away--he has the democratic instinct, the belief that its possible to hold politicians accountable, in such a deep and personal way.

This goes deep for him, what it means to represent people. Plus, he's really funny.

The race is statistically tied--Randy has 10%, the lead has 15%, 47% are undecided. His big competition is a millionaire who wants to buy the race.  He does not need millions to win. His numbers are going up in AZ even though he hasn't put out an ad, or run for state office--honestly, its because people who meet him have the same response I do.

If you know anyone who blogs about politics, ask them to follow this race. If you know anyone who lives in Arizona, ask them to volunteer for this race. If you can give $100, please give it now.
www.parrazforchange.com

Imagine Randy Parraz taking on John McCain in the fall--really getting to him, on the moral issues of immigration, on practical terms with an ability to take down the puffy pretensions. At the very least, its a way for someone out of state to show strong opposition to SB1070.

Thanks.

CNN and ABC stories show impact of unfair immigration laws

From Restore Fairness blog

As the countdown to Arizona's SB1070 law draws nearer (July 29th), and Congress continues to skirt the issue of immigration reform, a number of excellent stories have emerged from the news on our broken immigration system. 

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